I’m Donna Lea Simpson, and I’ve been an author for quite a while, publishing Regency romances with Kensington, paranormal historical romances with Berkley, and now a Victorian romance with Carina. Love & Scandal is a sexy historical that delves into the literary world of Victorian England. I’m thrilled to be a part of the launch of Carina Press, and the editorial process has been an exciting one.
Gina Bernal has made Love & Scandal a million times better with her edits, suggestions, questions, and the absolute attention to detail she brings to the project. She has also called me on some bad habits (starting sentences with ‘and’… thanks for pointing it out, Gina!) with unfailing good humor. I’m thrilled with the finished product; L&S would not have been nearly as good without Gina’s enthusiastic TLC.
Donna – Do you have any pet peeves, as an editor? Any authorial habit that drives you nuts? C’mon… all editors have ‘em, so tell us.
Gina – On the most basic level, it irks me when authors (particularly newbies) don’t take the time to really study their genre of choice. For example, don’t pitch your project as steampunk in a query letter when the closest the book comes to steampunk is a Victorian setting and some vague references to technological advancements.
It also drives me crazy when characters describe themselves in a way that feels forced–and that includes the old standing in front of a mirror trick. Heroines are particularly prone to this. When you’re putting your hair in a pony tail, do you ever think about your luxurious chestnut curls? Neither should your characters, unless they are particularly vain.
Something that will immediately pull me out of a story is a lack of dialogue. Sometimes an author gets so caught up in a character’s internal monologue or in paragraph after paragraph of description that the novel goes on for pages without anyone speaking. Once, at the ballet, I sat behind a mother and her young son. About halfway through the first act, the kid turned to her and said (quite loudly), “Why aren’t they talking?!” That’s how I feel when there’s not enough dialogue in a story. Trust me, authors, dialogue is your friend. Dialogue can progress the action, reveal information and express emotion. This is especially important in romance, where dialogue can be fun and flirtatious or seriously sexy–either way, it helps build intimacy. It’s like the line from “Lost in Austen,” when the modern-day heroine advises Elizabeth Bennett to get to know Darcy: “Just keep talking. From the talking comes the love.”
Donna – This next is a ‘choose your own question’ question… choose a) or b) to answer.
Gina – I’m going to pull another of my own pet peeves–not following directions–by quickly answering both.
2a – Do you write? If so, what do you write?
Gina – In college, I started to write. Recently, I uncovered a bunch of random chapters from projects I started but never finished. The longest chunk I wrote was for a time travel romance (these were much more popular back then). Maybe one day it will see the light of day again.
2b – Why do you enjoy editing?
Gina – I love the creative collaborative process between editor and author. Finding a submission that excites you is a great thing, but it’s the actual hands-on work with the author to make it the best book possible that’s most rewarding. I’m constantly awed by the incredible imagination that writers possess. Brainstorming ideas or working the kinks out of a troublesome scene can be a lot of fun. But even when edits get a bit frustrating or when you’re forced to crack the editorial whip now and again, it’s completely worth it when both of us are proud of the finished product.
Donna – What is the farthest you have ever traveled from home? (Why? Did you enjoy it?)
Gina – Miles-wise, the farthest I’ve ever traveled is Greece. Two summers ago, my boyfriend and I spontaneously booked tickets to Athens. We went the first week of September, so the temperatures were intense and I spent much of the trip with heat rash up and down my arms. But I’d do it again in a heartbeat! The ancient ruins of the Acropolis were truly awe-inspiring. Plus, we spent the longest part of our holiday on the island of Santorini, which is quite possibly the most beautiful place on earth. I wish I could vacation there every year!
Donna – What did you hope to be when you grew up, when you were twelve? Would you be happy now, if it had come true? (Or did it?)
Gina – At twelve, my dream was to be an actress. How happy I’d be today would totally depend on how successful an actress I’d become. J
Donna – If you were a tree… naw, I won’t ask that. But… if you had to choose an animal to become, what animal would it be? And why?
Gina – I’d be a tiny ball of fur named Nemo Bernal. My parents’ adopted the Pomeranian mix from a shelter a few months after the passing of our 15+ year-old family dog. Because he’s the new baby, Nemo is a spoiled brat who gets to do anything he wants. Oh, to have that dog’s pampered life!
A note from Gina Bernal about reading and what she’d like to see from writers:
To say I’m a big reader is an understatement. I’m usually reading more than one book at a time for pleasure–currently, a historical novel for my book group, a young adult dystopian fantasy as a read-along with my guy, a Silhouette Special Edition on my Blackberry, and a history of the founding of Australia whenever I can sneak in a chapter or two.
As for acquisitions, I’m looking for romance of all subgenres and heat levels. I love historicals set in unusual eras, sexy shapeshifters, and fun contemporaries. I’m a Texas girl, so cowboys–historical or contemporary–always have a spot in my heart. Outside of romance, I’m interested in women’s fiction (especially family dramas), historical fiction, and suspense with strong female characters,
You can find Gina on FaceBook, and also: